Vernon Reid: The 13th Floor Interview Part 2

Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid has been stunning fans for over 30 years with his six string sonic gymnastics. Reid and the band bring their 30th Anniversary Tour to Auckland on Thursday, May 11th.

Yesterday we brought you part one of Marty Duda’s interview with Vernon Reid. Today, we bring you part two, in which Reid discusses the upcoming release of the band’s highly anticipated new album, Shade.

Click here to listen to part two of the 13th Floor interview with Vernon Reid:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: Now, we should talk a little bit about music before we’re done. My understanding is that your album, Shade, is due out sometime this year. What is the status of the thing?

VR: It’s coming out in June. We were just dealing with artwork and the final sequence things and mastering, and we’re pretty much we’re settling in June.

MD: So, what can you tell me about it? What’s it going to sound like?

VR: Well, all the Living Colour records are a mixed bag. I think a lot of the feel of the record there’s a certain amount of blues is a thread, but it’s not a blues rock record. But it’s like blues is a touch stone throughout the record; so, that’s one thing. We talked about, early on, this whole idea of blues and, metal and hard rock being reconnected, and then we got together with a producer who’s mainly a hip hop producer; so, it has a very interesting collision of styles. There’s hard rock on it, there’s a couple things that have a metal vibe, there are a couple of things that are very alternative; there’s one song that, if anything, I would say it’s kind of like an ode to Pink Floyd; so, there’s a bit of ‘psychedelesizing’. It’s a thing cool combination of elements.

MD: Are we going to be hearing any of this stuff when you guys come down here to play?

VR: Yeah, we’ll play a couple of the songs; we’ll definitely play a couple of the songs for sure. It’s a mixed bag: we cover a Robert Johnson song, we obviously do Who Shot Ya, and we did a version of Inner City Blues – the Marvin Gaye tune – there are a bunch of originals. There are a couple of songs that you’ll scratch your head; you’ll be like, “What is that about?” We kind of deal with a little bit of the absurdity of being an American at this time. One of the things that I find – we’ve been working on this record for a while – and weirdly enough, the craziness of what has happened puts this record in a whole other context. It’s very much a record – without naming Trump at all; without even knowing that Trump would exist – this record is an anti-Trump, dystopian record.

MD: And did that happen just as a natural course of action, or did you guys sit and think about it, talk about it?

VR: No! It was like points of it where it just… it’s like having the lyrics, and okay, the lyric means something in one sense, and then having events turn around. You know what, in other words, okay, we have a song: the song that has a Pink Floyd vibe-ish – it’s the last thing on the record – and Trump had this whole thing “making America great again”: Now, when the song was written, that was two years before we heard this phrase, but we have a line in the lyric which is “The styles of the things that never happened…” so, when you hear, “Make America great again,” and when I hear that song, the entire meaning of the song has shifted to question this whole idea. You know, so the line, “The styles of the things that never happened,” becomes a complete sound bowl against “Make America great again.”

MD: Well, America was only great back in fifty, sixty years ago for a certain percentage of the population.

VR: The thing about it is, America is the country of the Wright brothers and Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker and Reese’s peanut butter cups, right? You know what I mean? I mean… America is a place where rock & roll and the personal computer; so, the greatness of America is in its aspirations, even when bad stuff has been a part of it – has always been a part of it. And the striving to try to figure out what America is: America is fifty countries! America is fifty countries pretending to be one country. That’s the reality…

MD: And possibly even more. I mean, let’s face it: New York City is an entity unto itself; so, there you go.

VR: Like LA. You know, that’s the thing. We have this thing we’re trying to do, and people say what is convenient for them: they say, “You should get over this and get over that,” and I go, “Well, you’re not going to get that, and I’ll tell you why you’re not going to get that: because you keep having civil war re-enactments.” “When you give up civil war re-enactments, we’ll give up the other thing,” You know what I mean? It’s always funny when people holler at you, “So, why are you recreating the battle of Manassas?” “Why?” But America’s also the slot car and the model airplane, and so on and so forth: the great, the trivial, the ridiculous, the insane, the ugly, the beautiful, the grand, the not so great; that’s what America is. And it’s skate boarding – you know what I mean? – and snowboarding, and comic books; it’s all of those things…. It’s a Stratocaster and a Les Paul, my friend, the Stratocaster and the Les Paul!

MD: … It’s a crazy place. I mean, I lived there for a good number of years, and it never ceases to amaze me or surprise me.

VR: Yeah, I know. So, think about this: I wake up every morning and I say – and… before I begin, you get into, you’re into it or not – just saying to myself, “Donald Trump…” and this is a sentence I have said “… Prince is dead, and Donald Trump is the President of the United States.”

MD: Right, yeah… oh, man!”

VR: Yeah, yeah!

MD: And on that note, I’m afraid we have to wrap it up. What a bummer!

VR: Well, you know what, though? With this too shall pass…. I do manage to laugh. It’s crazy town… and anybody that thinks that they’re going to control what America is, is in for a rude shock…. That’s one of the great things, that anytime you think, “Okay, you know what this needs? A da-da-da, gonna’ happen and take over.” No it’s not, because America’s a country that will flip; it will flip on you. It can flip on anyone. And all that triumphalism: that triumphalism is mm-mmm; you gotta’ check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Click here for tickets and info to see Living Colour at The Powerstation.